Taking engineering and facilitating CGL further
The study (Gratton. R. 2011) suggested that a sustained engagement with CGL cyclically introduces, develops and enhances skills and attributes that build a cognitive and social capacity for ongoing self-sustained collaboration and effective lifelong-lifewide learning. These conclusions were borne out as I took the application of a pedagogy which consisted of both CGL and Master Classes (teacher led learning experiences) into another year with this group of learners. Enhancements in levels of verbal and written communication, learner autonomy and high levels of academic attainment were observed. Also evident was a shift towards a more positive learning orientation, a real hunger for learning, amongst all students. Watching the groups plan, research, teach and then successfully write analytical essays, while I was freed up to focus on those that needed additional input, highlighted the multi-faceted benefits of a sustained application of a CGL pedagogy. This has continued to be a feature of CGL in the contexts it is now applied within, with teachers free to focus on those most at need.
The success and emerging popularity of this form of learning led to others adopting it in their own contexts. This opportunity to develop the application of CGL within subjects such as English, and Mathematics, and within the teaching of English as a foreign language within Finnish classrooms, enabled me to further see the benefits of widening the application of CGL to other disciplines.
However, engineering and facilitating CGL is not a simple undertaking. It requires facilitators to have patience, restraint, skill and above all commitment to making it work. CGL cannot be adapted to a current practice but requires teachers to think and act in different ways. Foremost the facilitator must ensure that the group is constructed appropriately (Fig 3) and not give in when group relations break down. When asked today “but what if they don’t get along with each other” I reply, “Good, that’s the point, as through working out their differences and learning to get along and learn with each other they will not only improve as a group of learners but also prepare themselves for the reality of life.” The facilitator must keep a close eye on social-cohesion, offering advice and support when needed, mediating, and designing CGL activities which help build and maintain the skills and attributes needed for both social-cohesion and CGL.
The facilitation of CGL and the development of the skills and attributes borne through it requires the careful engineering-design of learning experiences. If the activities designed don’t enable leaners to learn from and with one another, in an ongoing and reciprocal process of consensus building, learners will be limited to mere cooperation. For the teacher their involvement in learning shifts from being predominantly within the classroom to preparing for the classroom. Time spent preparing for CGL frees teachers up to help those in the classroom who really need their assistance. To aid those teachers preparing CGL experiences I suggest the following reflection: is the product of this experience only possible with the unique input of each member of the group or could it still exist if one person worked alone?
To facilitate CGL both teacher and student need to posses an attitude open to the role of discourse, social interaction, interdependence and learner autonomy. Above all it is the teacher who needs to possess this attitude as through a pedagogy that promotes CGL, student practices can be shaped and perceptions changed. As a means of attending to these issues and identifying how to enhance the engineering and facilitation of CGL across contexts I am at present exploring how a pro-CGL culture can be culturally constructed, embedded and maintained.
I believe that by working together, the thoughtful teacher and their cooperative students can begin applying CGL to its full potential, creating students who can learn together and learn forever.
If you are interested in finding out more about this research study feel free to contact me;